I worked a corporate job for five years before I finally called it quits. I wanted to quit already two days into the gig, and I had wanted to be an entrepreneur for pretty much ever (This is kind of Part 2 of my “how I finally became an entrepreneur” story. You can read the first part here.).
So what the hell was the hold up?
Me. The six inches of space between my ears that I was simultaneously completely out-of-touch-with and far-too-obsessed-with.
But in the interest of being thorough, I’ll break it down a bit further than that.
1) I had no fucking clue what I wanted.
I didn’t realize it at the time, but oh the beauty of hindsight to show me that this was in fact my biggest problem (rather than some of the other things I cover below).
I thought I knew what I wanted. I wanted to be an entrepreneur. I wanted to be able to travel lots. I loved the “idea” of online business. I may have even had a glimmer of an idea of teaching people/helping them be better versions of themselves/rallying the troops with my writing.
But I didn’t actually, specifically know what I wanted. To a finer point, what I really didn’t know was how I wanted to feel.
I had some vague ideas of WHAT I wanted but was even more vague on WHY I wanted them.
Here’s the problem with that:
When you confine yourself to only WHAT you want, you close yourself off to the possibilities you can’t even be aware of right now. When you pursue a feeling, the WHY behind the WHAT, the purpose of the thing you think you want to be, do, or have, there are suddenly a bajillion and a half ways* that purpose might be achieved.
*This number has not been independently verified.
I didn’t have the first clue what my purpose was, so I was chasing nebulous ideas of what I wanted. I was giving in to the effects (“I could be a laptop-entrepreneur if I started an Etsy shop!”) rather than digging into figuring out the root cause of all the things I wanted (“I want to help people understand themselves better. I want to give generously to causes I believe in. I want to share my uber-kookiness in a way that maybe makes people chuckle and think.”).
I had no concept of what my values were and no consciously-chosen vision for my life (I mean, sure, who doesn’t have a Pinterest board with 3,478 pins of the most amazing hotels in the world, the house with a study that rivals the Library of Congress, and this year’s Audi… ok, the Audi I still want. But it’s not like I’d actually made a decision about what I wanted out of life.).
Consequently, I bounced from one idea to the next. Each one seemed to offer different pros and cons (this is the problem with chasing effects… there are so many of them that they ALL look semi-attractive but still slightly off, so you keep moving from one to the next, trying to find the least-“off” one to settle on while your innards scream, “NO! THIS IS ALL WRONG!”). And because of all the various pros and cons I was creating for myself,
2) I had really messed up priorities.
See, the problem with not really knowing what you want is that it makes it hard to get, well, not only whatever it is you would want if you knew what that was, but even getting something that’s a mediocre stand-in.
So I was constantly chasing effects… ideas… potential solutions. And each of those potential solutions had numerous potential problems that seemed insurmountable (here’s another bitch about chasing effects, you’re super attached to achieving THAT.EXACT.RESULT., which means you positively MUST.NOT.FAIL., which means you better figure out every possible problem/hang-up/thing you don’t know yet or you will undoubtedly be screwed for life.).
Consequently, in an attempt to not be “screwed for life,” I did what I do best. I learned.
My job was so brainless that I’d go through a half dozen audio books a week in my cubicle alone. I was averaging 10-15 podcast episodes a week. I was on a few hundred mailing lists. The amount of information I was cramming into my head was (again, in hindsight) astronomical.
Now here’s the thing, by most people’s standards, I still read a lot (a book a week or so). I still like me some podcasts when I bravely attempt to procure nourishment for my offspring from the suburban jungle (Target. I’m talking about going to Target.). But the stuff I was learning then was so… irrelevant… to where I was in life. I was stuffing facts and ideas and formulas into my head when I had no practical application for their use.
I was trying to solve problems I didn’t even have yet. I wasn’t implementing anything I’d learned because I had no idea what I really wanted, but I needed to feel like I was doing something that would move me forward.
I didn’t realize the only thing I actually needed to be learning about at the time was ME (because that would have felt like a frivolous waste of time! I needed more information to make a sound decision! I needed to make sure I would be an instant and overwhelming success!). Which leads me to this point:
3) I was scared shitless and didn’t know it.
All that learning I was doing. All the procrastinating, the endless perfecting of the few minor attempts at action that I did take, the insistence that the answer was “out there” in some webinar or course that I could buy for 6 easy payments of $197. It was all because I was terrified.
Here’s a brief list of the things I was scared of:
- not making enough money
- what my parents would think
- what my friends, Facebook (yes, in its entirety), brother, mom’s-cousin-living-overseas, and next door neighbors would think
- no one wanting the thing I did
- making more money than my husband
- pissing off my husband for wasting a bunch of time and money “trying stuff”
- changing my mind (ahem, surprise surprise… see #1)
- things not going fast enough
- things going too fast
- and then 100,000 other things that fall into these general categories
All of this boiled down to fears of failure, success, abandonment, embarrassment, and “can I really pull this off?” And so I looked for ways to ensure my fears wouldn’t happen (though you’ll notice that many of them contradict/have opposites of one another… ergo, stuckness).
What I didn’t know at the time was that all of these things could have been solved by taking care of the above-mentioned #1 first: owning who I am, what I’m here for, and how I can make a difference, and then, with all the love in my heart, contently waving a big middle finger to whoever didn’t understand that (because at that point, they need to be dealing with their own shit, and it’s not up to me to fix them).
Make no mistake, this isn’t some kind of “well, I took care of all that, so now I’m good” declaration. I’m constantly refining and undoing and digging a bit deeper and getting a little clearer on how I can make each of these things not be issues going forward. But actually realizing these issues was what got me unstuck and finally enabled me to quit my job.
I have a process now. Steps I take myself through regularly, or whenever something feels off (you can actually get a copy of my process for yourself here). Anymore, it’s just about never going back to that stuckness, and rather putting one foot in front of the other towards what I want. You can do that too.